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Baroque, Bistros, and Icicle Toes

Our first field trip was to the hillside Tuscan town of Cortona. I previously went this summer when it was bustling and blazing hot–I even recall getting a pretty cherry sunburn. But as we all know, the differences between June and January are more than just a few extra letters…

Forecast: Scattered Showers, 35 degrees F, Precipitation–100%

For the first few hours of our trip, we had a guide take us around some of the neatest Baroque and Renaissance themed churches around the town, interiors embellished with multi-colored marble, dramatic baroque paintings, gold plated triptychs. However only a few of us were willing enough to pull our limbs from our sides to take pictures. Even inside, the churches remained to be beautiful, dark, iceboxes. I felt a bit sorry for our guide. Once she mentioned the word “Ribollita”, a  piping hot, thick, tuscan bread soup, it was much harder to think about the fine craftsmanship and legacy Cortona’s of Baroque Art.  DSCN5193

“Well the tour is over, so you all now have free time to explor……”

Alas with those beautiful words rang the gong to start our soup mission…..

Most of the class broke off at the first trattoria they came upon.

“But they don’t have the soup!” It now began to pour.

However, four of us were not quitting! We will find it! and alas after many closed doors (our search was during siesta time) and no soup, we finally took refuge from the rain inside a little rustic place in an alleyway called Trattoria Toscana that still had its lights on. And they had Ribollita!

Ironically, I did not end up getting Ribollita–But I will get to that later….

The place was small. The only other people there was a group of old men sitting together mumbling Italian in really nice wool hats. Ahhh No matter what age, I find that italians are always wearing nice hats.

As we sat down our waiter gave us complimentary baked, crispy bread, later surprising us with our own balls of fresh goat cheese drizzled with a thicker, tangy balsamic vinegar. Divine.

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So why didn’t I follow up with Ribollita?

Because they offered a unique off season special–peppered truffle linguini with freshly grated Truffles! I was not dissapointed….

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Piping hot, the pasta and a wonderful thickness, (but not oiliness) to a smooth, peppery, but earthy truffle sauce. He then grated fresh truffles on the plate right at the table which fell onto the steaming dish like flakes of snow. There are no words to describe… For at least five minutes everyone at our table was quiet.

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One day we shall return!

Later we decided to stop by somewhere and get a hot chocolate. Still siesta time, the town seemed empty, but nonetheless we were guided inside a small bar/coffee shop by an old man. We told him we already ate, but decided to stay for coffee and tea instead and was very excited for us to stay. Because of the weather, I think we were the only business they had all day! Our waiter spoke English well enough and we enjoyed his company as he explained certain Italian coffee drinks for us that we didn’t know of (Sometimes even giving us free samples!). The old man came by our table and gave us additional free pastries with our tea and hot chocolate!  It was such an intimate italian experience I never would have had in June!

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Even my tea bursted into a flower!

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Winter or Summer, to this day Cortona still remains to be one of my favorite places in Italy. I can’t wait to come back in the Spring! DSCN5152
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When a Clock is Hungry it Goes Back Four Seconds.

If my stomach could smile…..

These last few days have been packed with a lot of activities from Orientation tours of the city and introductions to meeting my new classmates, a wonderful group full of life.

But when we have time to finally rest and settle down, our stomachs remind us of an element of italian life that cannot be ignored. My kitchen will get a lot of action this semester!

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I love cooking very much–almost as much as I love eating 🙂 In the second night of our stay here  I decided to cook  linguini carbonara for my two new Apartment mates

This recipe is from my italian cookbook ZaZa, a modest, paper-package brown cookbook rich of authentic Tuscan recipes I got while I was here in Italy this summer. This recipe is a memorized version, for I forgot the original book at home in the States. (When I didn’t unpack it I almost cried :’-() However the results of this dish did not disappoint!

Pasta Carbonara—for tre amice

1 bag of long linguini of fettachini noodles

1 clove of garlic, sliced

5 eggs

1 cup of freshly grated Pectorino Romano cheese

1 cup of chopped up italian ham or pancetta(in small cubes)–In the US I like to use country ham for a really intense flavor!

olive oil

salt and pepper

Cook pasta in salted water. Drain. –but save a bit of cooking water for later

Beat eggs and cheese in a dish with a generous amount of pepper.–I like pepper 🙂

Cook sliced garlic in olive oil, then add the cubes of Ham. Cook until the juices of the ham start to swirl around in the pan. Add cooked pasta directly to the saucepan with the ham and garlic–swirl around until thoroughly combined. Place pasta mixture in a separate serving dish.

Pour cheese/egg mixture over the pasta with ham in the dish until thoroughly combined. Add some pasta cooking water if the egg sauce seems too dry

(If the egg mixture cools down the pasta too much, don’t hesitate to put the finished dish in the microwave until it is deliciously hot!)

Serve with grated cheese. Enjoy!

—Now the big question to serve with or without cream. For me the answer has always  been a resounding NO!

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Served with tomatoes, fresh semolina bread, and red wine, this pasta dish was the perfect introduction meal for many more to come!

DSCN5109 DSCN5112Cheers to a delicious semester ahead!

My Secret Hole in the Wall

Ciao! A young dark italian says to my roommate Olivia and I in the stairwell to our new apartment. Oh eh–Ciao I answer back, disheveled, I was hiding behind a wall of carpet bags, backpacks and suitcases. It was cold outside, but at the time I felt like a donkey that carried bricks of salt in the middle of the summer. A bun once tidy on top of my head now resided in a tumble weed-like form at the base of my neck, and my tunic, covered in airplane smells of diesel and spilt hand sanitizer felt soon like an unnecessary layer of skin.  Even with Olivia’s help,  my sad attempt to first carry an old-school 1970s suitcase up eight flights of stairs was not helping an aspiring fashionable italian image.

“Do you want’e help” He asks

“Uh, okay, thanks eh grazie” I was relieved “Its pretty heavy”

He continued up the steps with my suitcase as if it were filled with foam. Whatever. I could have done it any other day….

Eventually, our housing coordinator meets us at our floor.

“Why don’t you try opening your door with your key” she tells me. Excited, I pull my key out to open a beautiful wooden double door next to where our suitcases are placed.

“Uh, no its the one next to it.” –what door?

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Oh. A little embarrassed, I  turn to my left at a door that looks like the outside of a mop closet. “Here?”

“Si, si”

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Yes this is our door. I too at first was tad worried. being 5′ 2” the door was just a few inches taller than me. hmmm okayyy thats ..Interesting….

Of coarse as soon as I turned the key and stepped in all of my doubts were erased.

Small, slim, but stylish and modernized, our apartment sort of reminded me of a typical manhattan apartment, and I thought it was beautiful!! The tall ceilings made it seem more spacious than it really was while natural afternoon light poured through the long glass doors and windows.  Even the shower had a window in it! It was, intriguing….

But where was the washing machine?

Found it– The humble machine, camping out on the little terrace enjoying the Tuscan winter afternoon.  Its going to be a great semester.

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All I want for Christmas is my Visa

YES! After finally getting my Visa in the mail and purchasing my ticket, my four months in Florence are becoming more real by the second and I’m finding myself packing EVERYTHING already (then unpacking them consequently realizing I still need to use things) until then, still practicing my Italian. Lei capisce l’italiano?….Il cupisco umpo l’italiano. L’inglese prevalentemente. Uno, Due, Tre, Panino, Im working on it…

This will be the first post before many more detailing my explorations of this golden Renaissance city and beyond! Rinascimento in Italian , from rinascere “to be reborn”. Feeling a little uninspired lately, I hope to come to this city to be re-born myself, experiencing awakenings in both my mind, my art, and my spirit. 🙂 Image

I will see you in Italy! Arrivedercii!

PS: Ignore the old posts from 2010, those are from a class in Freshman Foundations. I would take them off, but I am far too lazy and they are so lame that  they make me laugh, so whatever.